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Washington State University Blog

$2.2 million gift creates graduate fellowship

By Marcia Hill Gossard, College of Veterinary Medicine

A $2.2 million gift from the estate of Bernadine and James Seabrandt will create the Bernadine Fulfs Seabrandt Graduate Fellowship in Molecular Biosciences at Washington State University’s school of Molecular Biosciences. Read More

Sarah Kostick

Ph.D. student researcher inoculates trees in race against fire blight

 

WENATCHEE, Wash. – Apple and pear growers in Washington state recently declared that the spring of 2018 marks one of the worst outbreaks of fire blight in recent history, as noted by Capital Press, an agricultural news publication. Read More

NextGen Ph.D. Program

Connecting graduate education to underserved populations

 

Creating a national model to connect graduate education in the humanities to rural and underserved populations is the aim of a new Washington State University effort being funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Read more

David Alpizar

Doctoral Student Selected for Summer Internship with ETS

by Cheryl Reed

 

Washington State University doctoral student David Alpizar has been selected for a highly competitive internship this summer for ETS in Princeton, New Jersey. While there, he will be working on the TOEFL test, studying assessment, test score validity, and test fairness.

ETS has developed a number of student performance assessments used by universities, including the GRE, TOEFL, and Praxis. Alpizar’s work with ETS will draw upon his research in the field of educational measurement and psychometrics at WSU, where he has been working with Dr. Brian French in his psychometric laboratory within the Learning and Performance Research Center.

“David has the unique opportunity to work on ETS research surrounding new item types for assessments used at the graduate level,” says French. “He will work with a team of experts to investigate how these items may build better assessments to assist with making the best decisions about individuals.”

While Alpizar has always imagined working in academia, he looks forward to working in industry this summer and exploring the idea of a career there.

“It feels very surreal,” he said.

Alpizar came to WSU in 2015 to pursue a doctoral degree in educational psychology under the mentorship of French. While working on his master’s degree from California State University, Northridge, he attended a conference in Portland, Ore., where he presented a poster on his work. There, he met WSU College of Education faculty Sola Adesope, who believed Alpizar would be a good fit for the educational psychology doctoral program at WSU.

“But I’d never heard of that place,” Alpizar said—who immediately went home, checked out the program, and emailed French. French responded that he believed Alpizar would be a good match for his program and sent him information about the WSU Graduate School’s Research Assistantship for Diverse Scholars (RADS) program, which sponsors a campus visit, and, if selected for admittance, includes a research assistantship and tuition waiver. Alpizar was selected to visit WSU spring 2015.

“I liked it here,” says Alpizar. “It felt right—it felt comfortable, and I met a lot of friends during the visit.”

Alpizar was offered a research assistantship in French’s laboratory through the RADS program for fall 2015.

French was pleased Alpizar selected WSU and the Educational Psychology program as the environment to continue his professional development.

“David enjoys the complexities and technical aspects of the work,” he says. “He is able to negotiate and situate his work in the useful space between application and methodology to inform how we use measurement to better our health and learning environments. He brings a critical and positive energy to my laboratory, and is a team leader.”

Rooted in Education

Originally from Mexico, Alpizar moved to the San Fernando Valley in California in the early 1990s. He graduated from high school in 2000, then attended the Los Angeles Mission College for his associates degree and California State University Northridge in 2013 for his bachelor’s and 2015 for his master’s degree in psychology.

Although he began his education in mathematics, he quickly became interested in psychology while working as a tutor for adults with disabilities at Los Angeles Mission College.

“I developed an interest in teaching people with disabilities the skills to cope and to make information more accessible for them,” says Alpizar. “So I changed my major to psychology.”

As an undergraduate at Northridge, Alpizar received a Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) scholarship, which helped train him for graduate research work.  When he began conducting research, he enjoyed the way that math statistics were used in psychology research, and realized his skills in mathematics would be valuable for his graduate work.

Alpizar’s master’s thesis, which examined whether widely used depression assessment, i.e., Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8,) is interpreted the same among emerging adults of Mexican and Central American men and women residing in the United States, was published in the November 2017 Journal of Psychological Assessment, (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29199838) a highlight of his career so far. He also co-authored two published articles last year in the Journal of Advances in Medicine and Medical Research and the Journal of Latina/o Psychology.

Alpizar will be starting his dissertation work this year around his research in French’s laboratory, including testing assessments’ psychometrics properties, and examining the performance, power, and precision of test statistics under several conditions (e.g., sample size). He will be taking his preliminary examination in fall 2018.

“David is a pleasure to work with,” says French. “His motivation and energy for his work is very high. Most importantly, he is intellectually curious, which enables him to drive forward on his ideas.”  Under French’s mentorship, Alpizar is the fifth doctoral student who has obtained such an internships in recent years, and is the second RADS student in two years to do so.

Alpizar says he is thankful for the love, mentorship, and support given by his family, the faculty and staff at WSU, and the faculty and staff at California State University Northridge.

Kevin Estelle and Tyler Fouty

Engineering Graduate Students Win NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

by Ruth Williams

PULLMAN, Wash.—Washington State University engineering graduate students Kevin Estelle and Tyler Fouty have been awarded 2018 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Program Fellowships (NSF GRFP).

The NSF GRFP supports outstanding graduate students in STEM disciplines who are attending accredited institutions. The program received more than 12,000 applications this year, with 2,000 fellowships awarded nationwide. The award provides three years of financial support that includes a stipend and funds to cover tuition and other university fees.

The application requires students to demonstrate their potential for significant achievements in science and engineering research, and once selected are expected to become knowledgeable experts who can contribute to research, teaching, and innovations in science and engineering.

“I had four people looking over my proposal,” says Fouty, whose advisor is Nick Engdahl. “I think I spent two months on it.”

Fouty was recruited to WSU through the combined efforts of Civil Engineering, the Plateau Center for Native American Studies, and the Graduate School, with funding for his first year from a Research Assistantship for Diverse Scholars (RADS). Fouty was also a participant in a NSF-funded alliance, PNW-COSMOS, supported by a grant to the  Graduate School from the NSF’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program that is aimed at developing and studying a model of culturally compatible recruitment and mentoring for American Indians/Alaska Natives.  Fouty’s undergraduate institution, Salish Kootenai College, a tribal college on the Flathead Indian Reservation, is a partner institution in the AGEP alliance.

Fouty received his undergraduate degree in hydrology from Salish Koontenai College. Now a civil and environmental engineering master’s student at WSU, he is researching the resilience of simulated streambed culverts to prolong fish habitats. Because fish cannot swim through many of the culverts in Washington state to get to their spawning habitat, Fouty is creating a complex simulation of streambeds with culverts in the Albrook Hydraulics Lab to understand the problem.

“We’re designing how to lay out the sediment for a natural stream bottom to help the fish get through the culverts and back to their spawning grounds,” he said.

Estelle, who received his undergraduate degree in mechanical and materials engineering from WSU, worked closely with his advisor—Arda Gozen—and started his application long before the deadline. He also looked up the papers from previous winners to see what the committee looked for in applicants.

“You have to be very genuine,” he says, “and have experience, especially in community service.”

Estelle is a now a mechanical and materials engineering doctoral student conducting research on 3D-printed bio-dissolvable microneedles that can be mixed with medicines to treat disease.

“If a person has a localized skin cancer, or skin disease, you would put an array of these needles on the skin and they would dissolve into the capillaries with the medicine over a certain amount of time,” says Estelle.

Homeschooled on a farm with several siblings, Estelle credits his mother for his interest in engineering.

“My mom encouraged me to look into engineering,” he says. “After doing some reading about it, I found it was a perfect fit for both my math and creative sides.”

Estelle and Fouty will join 16 other WSU students who are currently funded by a NSF GRFP.

Contact: Cheryl Reed, communications director, Graduate School, 509-335-7177, Cheryl.reed@wsu.edu

Martha Cottam

Mentor Academy Award for Excellence Winner Announced

By Ruth Williams

The Graduate School is pleased to announce that Martha Cottam is the recipient of the 2018 Graduate School Mentor Academy Award for Excellence. Professor Cottam, who is also the Graduate Studies Director of the School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs, has worked at WSU for more than 25 years, and is one of the longest-serving members of the Graduate Mentor Academy.

“I was really surprised and honored to receive the award,” says Cottam.

The Graduate Mentor Academy (GMA) was started around 2005 for the purpose of identifying graduate faculty with significant mentorship experience and skills, and providing them with additional training, according to Lisa Gloss, interim dean of the Graduate School.

“Faculty from the GMA provide support, guidance, and encouragement to graduate students during preliminary exams or final defenses and ensure that the correct policies and procedures are followed,” says Gloss. “While the majority of student examinations—candidacy or final defenses—proceed without any complications or concerns, GMA members will attend exams where academic issues might arise, such as a student retaking an exam after failing the first time.”

Cottam is particularly proud of her record as a member of the GMA—none of the students she has mentored has failed their exams or defenses.

“It’s always a troublesome situation for the graduate students,” she says, “but it’s a privilege to be the person who knows the rules and can make sure the students are comfortable and the rules are followed. It reassures them that they’re going to get every chance to be successful.”

Cottam says she enjoys volunteering for the Graduate Mentor Academy because of the broad scope of students she’s been able to work with, including graduates in mathematics, education, plant biology, and many other subjects.

“Dr. Cottam is very appreciated by the Graduate School staff,” says Gloss. “She is willing to serve whenever she is available, responding promptly and positively to requests. After the exam, she provides helpful reports so that the Graduate School is aware of any reasons for future concerns—or if everything went just fine and the student is on track to progress in his or her graduate program.”

Cottam, along with graduate student scholarship awardees, will receive her award at the annual Graduate School Evening of Excellence on April 19.

Naomi Wallace

Three Minute Thesis Award Winner

By Ruth Williams

Grad Student Naomi Wallace looking at brain activityNaomi Wallace won the WSU 2018 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) award in March for her research presentation titled, “Developing Brains and Biological Clocks.” Naomi is an ARCS PhD neuroscience student in the College of Veterinary Science. She was among nine other WSU competitors for the award.

Three Minute Thesis® is a research communication developed by the University of Queensland wherein doctoral students have three minutes to present a compelling oration on their thesis and its significance. The exercise develops students’ ability to explain their research to a non-specialist audience. The first place winner receives $3,000 in a travel award to the research conference of choice.

Naomi earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Denver and became interested in how mental health and sleep are intertwined. She wanted to continue studying the intersection of these two topics in graduate school, and decided to research the effects of sleep deprivation and interruption on animals to learn more about the mechanistic parts of the equation.

She now performs circadian disruption experiments on mice.

“It’s not the same as sleep deprivation, but it does tend to be associated with a lot of similar effects,” she explains. “We put our mice on a light cycle that gives them a 20-hour day instead of a 24-hour day, and that causes their circadian rhythms to become desynchronized. We’re particularly interested in what happens in the brain in response to that.”

The 20-hour day means that the mice get the same amount of sleep as they normally would, but their sleeping schedule is fragmented—so instead of sleeping for several longer stretches, they sleep more frequently and for shorter periods of time.

“That alone leads to increases in obesity, problems with glucose tolerance−which looks like prediabetes−and other effects. We’re  looking for a way to prevent the negative neurological effects of circadian disruption and find potential targets that later down the road could be used to develop treatments for people who are circadian disrupted.”

Naomi’s advisor, Ilia Karatsoreos, focuses his research on circadian disruption and stress biology, and another student has recently joined their lab from the immunology and infectious diseases department. Naomi anticipates collaborations that will look at the immune affects of circadian disruption.

Naomi has a deep connection to WSU. Her father earned his Ph.D. here, and she grew up hearing about what a great place it is.

“There were a lot of good reasons to end up at WSU,” she says. “When I interviewed, I fell in love with the neuroscience department—and I also got financial support from an ARCS scholarship.”

 

 

Miriam Fernandez

Learning Náhuatl

 

By Cheryl Reed

In August of 1521, Spanish and indigenous soldiers conquered Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec Empire. Historians believe nearly a quarter million Tenochtitlán citizens died in the conquest, and all of the majestic temples, palaces, pyramids, and artifacts were destroyed. Read More

Kristin Pratt

Doctoral Graduate Wins Prestigious Outstanding Dissertation Award

By Cheryl Reed

Kristen Pratt, Ph.D., a 2017 WSU doctoral graduate in education, has won the 2018 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Outstanding Dissertation Award in the area of second language research. Read More

Kevin Gray and Afshin Kahn

Improving Chemotherapy Treatment to Reduce Side-effects

Two WSU doctoral graduates partner to become entrepreneurs

By Kakali Chakrabarti

When someone close to you is diagnosed with cancer, it can change your life perspective — and sometimes your life projectory. For Kevin Gray, a WSU doctoral graduate, the diagnosis drove him to a new research passion and creation of a biotechnology company to develop novel cancer treatments. Read more.